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IVF linked to increased risk of stillbirth

1 March 2010
Appeared in BioNews 547

Women who undergo fertility treatment are four times more likely to have a stillborn baby than those who conceive naturally or use other methods, according to a new study. Dr Kirsten Wisborg and colleagues at Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark, found that the risks were 'significantly' higher for women who had IVF or (ICSI) compared to unassisted pregnancies or those following other assisted reproductive treatments. The findings were published online in the journal Human Reproduction.

Dr Wisborg reassured women that the risk of stillbirth following fertility treatment is 'still very low' and said that the researchers do not know whether the increased risk is due to the fertility treatment or to unknown variables affecting couples who seek such therapy. She explained that the similar results for women who conceived naturally or after hormone treatment could indicate that the higher risk 'is not explained by infertility and may be due to other factors, such as the technology involved in IVF/ICSI'.

The researchers used data from the Aarhus Birth Cohort to analyse the pregnancies and outcomes of over 20,000 women from 1989 to 2006. They looked at the womens' age, education, smoking and drinking habits, and the time taken for them to become pregnant. The rate of stillbirths among those who had IVF or ICSI was found to be 16.2 per 1,000, compared to 3.7 per 1,000 for those who became pregnant naturally within one year, and 5.4 per 1,000 for those who took longer than a year. The still birth rate was lowest for those who received hormone treatment to stimulate egg production, at 2.3 per 1000.

However, Swedish research, published earlier this month, found no such link between IVF/ICSI and risk of stillbirth. Professor Karl Nygren and his team at the IVF and Fertility Clinic in Sofiahammet Hospital, Stockholm, conducted a similar, larger study of more than 27,000 women who gave birth following fertility treatment during a 25-year period. They found that the stillbirth rate among this group did not significantly differ from the general population. 'I don't know why the two studies should have such different findings, but couples should be reassured that the risk of stillbirths is low', said Professor Nygren. Dr Wisborg added: 'the results from the Swedish study and from our study should be interpreted with caution'.

Concerns raised over IVF stillbirth risk
Daily Telegraph |  24 February 2010
IVF Linked to Higher Stillbirth Rate
Medpage Today |  24 February 2010
IVF stillbirth risk four times higher, study finds
Reuters |  24 February 2010
Risk of stillbirth increases fourfold in women using fertility treatment
Daily Mail |  24 February 2010
Still births four times more likely with IVF
The Guardian |  23 February 2010
17 January 2011 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
Clinics should warn patients about the increased risk of birth defects for children conceived using fertility treatment, say the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)....
27 September 2010 - by Owen Clark 
Children conceived through IVF fertility treatment perform at least as well as their peers, according to a new US study....
14 June 2010 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
The risk of congenital malformations is increased in children born through assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as IVF or ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), researchers report today at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics....
1 March 2010 - by Maren Urner 
An IVF technique whereby fertilisation is achieved by injecting an individual sperm into an egg cell is being overused and may pass on infertility to the next generation, the scientist who developed the technique has warned...
15 February 2010 - by Gozde Zorlu 
Boys conceived through IVF tend to have short fingers - a trait linked to infertility, say researchers in a study published in the journal of Reproductive Biomedicine Online...
18 January 2010 - by Professor Marcus Pembrey 
Readers will have noticed a couple of news reports and Rosalind John's excellent commentary on this topic in the last few weeks, but I make no apology for returning to the subject so soon. I believe this area of research will spark interest from the media for years to come. This is not because I fear research will necessarily uncover some unsuspected risk to the health of people born after IVF (we can't know until we do the research) but because we are ...
11 January 2010 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Differences in the pattern of gene activity between children conceived naturally and those conceived following IVF (in vitro fertilisation) have been identified, the Sunday Times newspaper resported last week...
11 December 2009 - by Dr Rosalind M John 
The aim of assisted reproductive technology (ART) is to achieve a single most important goal, the birth of a healthy child. ART is responsible for the birth of over 200,000 children each year worldwide. In the most common form of infertility treatment - IVF - the woman's eggs are collected and then combined with the man's sperm in a petri dish. The successfully fertilised eggs are then transferred into the woman's womb. In ...
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